Although only 23, Rebecca Dibben can proudly name Le Gavroche, The Waterside Inn, BaxsterStorey and Glenneagles as part of her work experience. In the next few months she will also be able to add the Ritz and the Mandarin Oriental to that list. Hospitality is an industry people circumstantially fall into making the cross section of people’s backgrounds and past experiences quite diverse. Those that decide to stay and make it their career usually exhibit an immense passion and loyalty for this industry. Rebecca was rewarded for her passion for the industry this year when she became the first recipient of the Gold Service Scholarship, an award created to inspire young people to take up a professional career in front of house hospitality. The award has changed Rebecca’s life by offering her opportunities she never would have had otherwise. EP interviewed the Bournemouth native to find out more about how her past experiences led her to become the first Gold Service Scholar and how her life has changed since then.
What age did you first start working in the hospitality industry?
I started at the age of 16 working at the Ferndown Forest Golf Club, a relaxed restaurant and bar where I got to know all the regular guests. My role consisted mainly of waiting on tables and when old enough doing a few shifts on the bar. It was getting to know and “clicking” with the regular guests that led me to really enjoy the hospitality industry and recognize that it was where I wanted to have a career. It was a difficult to decide whether or not to go to university upon deciding on this vocational career path but I’m glad I went. University helped me expand on my understanding of the industry and led me to a placement at Glenneagles where I currently work now.
Where were you working before winning the Gold Service Scholarship?
After graduating in 2012, I returned to my role at Deseo Restaurant in Glenneagles as a restaurant supervisor. The team at Deseo is great and made up from people from all over the world. There is a real feeling of passion for service there which makes the work environment really enjoyable. It was while working there that my food and beverage manager told me about the competition for the scholarship. He actually told me a day before the closing date! I thought it sounded perfect so I put my application in that day.
What was the competition like?
The competition was nerve racking – it was my first hospitality competition and I didn’t really know what to expect. I couldn’t believe when I was called back for the final. I was the only female finalist, the only one in informal dining and the only one outside of London. The finalists I was competing against all had impressive previous work experience so I knew the final was going to be a challenge. The final challenge, serving a three course meal to a table of four, allowed me to demonstrate my skills and personality. Personality is so important in hospitality and being given the opportunity to let my own personality shine was I think what ultimately helped me win. My technical skills perhaps weren’t as advanced as the others but I could learn and expand on them however personality is innate and individual.
What were your experiences after winning the award?
My work placements have included time at Le Gavroche, the Waterside Inn, Buckingham Palace and BaxterStorey. I loved all of my time at them but what I really found interesting was being given the placement at BaxterStorey. It allowed me to see a side of the industry I hadn’t had experience with before. At Le Gavroche I was able to meet Michel Roux Jr. which was a huge highlight of the program. Buckingham Palace was really a dream come true. I can’t wait to return in November for the state visit. In the next few months I am heading to Champagne and Bordeaux along with other finalists, back to the palace and later on to the Ritz and the Mandarin Oriental. I’ve been very fortunate to have such a supportive team at Glenneagles to allow all the time that I’ve had away. GSS has changed my life. It allowed me to view the industry in a different way. The industry is changing and I want to be a part of that change. More and more young people are joining the industry with fresh faces and brand new ideas. Hospitality is a wonderful industry to be a part of and I am dedicated on encouraging more young people to start their career there.
What are your future plans?
A year ago I wouldn’t have dreamed my life would be like this, so I’ve decided not to make any plans as of yet. What will be, will be and as long as I’m happy in a career that I love to do I will consider myself successful.
With her immense enthusiasm for the industry and its opportunities, it is easy to see why Rebecca was awarded the scholarship. Deadlines for entry for the next competition have been extended until October 8th. The scholarship is open to 22-30 year olds working in the UK in any aspect of restaurant service, including hotels, high-street restaurants, fine dining, contract catering, licensed hospitality and clubs.
For more information on other initiatives or to get (more) involved with the community, please contact Nicole Thompson